Here in San Luis Obispo, it seems like there is a nonprofit organization for just about every cause; maybe this generous spirit is part of what makes us “The Happiest City in America.” But these nonprofits could not provide the services they do without a dedicated and hardworking board of directors.
The significance of the contributions board members make to our community’s success and well-being cannot be understated. Serving as a board member can become a powerful and valuable personal legacy. However, if you are considering a board position it is important to make sure the position will be a good fit for both you and the organization.
Here are 10 questions to ask before accepting a nonprofit board member position:
1. What is the organization’s mission statement?
The mission statement of the organization should be truly meaningful to you. It should be something that you firmly stand behind in your daily life and that you can ask family and friends to invest in.
2. What are the organization’s key goals in the next two to three years?
These goals should excite you and in some way connect with your personal goals. You should have a passion to achieve these goals.
3. Why are you interested in me as a board member?
It is important to know why an organization is choosing you as a potential board member. Knowing why you are valued in the organization can help you determine if the position is right for you.
4. What are the regular expectations of board members?
By knowing what is expected of you as board member, you can determine if you will be able to fulfill these expectations prior to taking the position. This is important because the board of a nonprofit organization can only function well if its members are fully dedicated and reliable. Make sure you can fill all the duties requested of the position; if not consider taking a position with less responsibility, such as one on an event committee.
5. What is unique about this organization and board?
This question helps you to identify the core reasons why this board may or may not be right for you. By identifying why others are inspired to work with this organization and what they value personally can make your decision much easier.
6. What difficulties has this board had in the past and what are the board’s weaknesses?
As with any decision, it is always important to weigh the pros and cons. Make an honest assessment of the board and determine whether there is a way for you to help turn these weaknesses into strengths.
7. Who is the executive director/CEO of the organization and how is his or her relationship with the board?
An established executive director can reflect stability within the organization, but does not have to be the deciding factor. Depending on who the executive director is and what their relationship is with the board, this could present an opportunity for growth in the organization or a sign of needed change. Looking at all the possible outcomes concerning this role can help you make your decision.
8. Does the organization carry Directors & Officers (D&O) Insurance?
This question is very important in your consideration of a board position. A nonprofit organization without D&O insurance likely has questionable financial health and management, making this a crucial question during the interview process.
9. What are your board position term limits?
Make sure you are able to fill the full term of your board position and know the possibilities for pre-term resignation if you cannot fulfill your full term. Board member terms can vary from organization to organization.
10. What could I gain from this experience?
The possible benefits from a board member position are infinite. From emotional satisfaction to business opportunities to personal stability, think about all the direct and indirect benefits of being associated with this organization and take them into account when making your decision.
Even after asking these questions, it is important to take some time to research the organization, including its history and financial health. Serving as a board member takes commitment, enthusiasm and resolve. Treat your selection process as seriously as you would a job search to ensure that your board member experience will be equally as rewarding for you and the organization.